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San Antonio Strategy On Police Calls Involving Mentally Ill Hailed As Model

The San Antonio police’s strategy for responding to calls involving people who are mentally ill is being hailed as a national model amid rising anger over police brutality toward and high incarceration rates of people with mental health issues, reports Al Jazzera America. This month, sheriff’s deputies responded to a call from a woman whose son, who had refused to take his medication, was aggressive and threatening. Officers who specialize in mental health were sent to speak to the man calmly, with the goal of de-escalating the situation. They maintained a patient, unhurried demeanor, and the man agreed to go with the deputies to a treatment facility.

On March 9 a police response to an incident outside Atlanta involving a mentally ill person turned out very differently. A DeKalb County officer arrived at an apartment complex where a nude man was crawling around, knocking on doors and causing a disturbance. Officers said the man, Anthony Hill, 27, rushed at the officer, who shot and killed him. Hill was unarmed. Nationwide, half the people shot and killed by police have mental health problems, said a 2013 estimate by the Treatment Advocacy Center and the National Sheriffs’ Association. Advocates say not only does the San Antonio and surrounding Bexar County program reduce violence, but it also keeps the mentally ill out of lockups.

 

 

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Portland ME Pays $72K To Couple Jailed After Filming Police

Portland, Me., has paid $72,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by a Bar Harbor couple who were arrested and jailed after they filmed police, reports the Portland Press Herald. Jill Walker and Sabatino Scattoloni spent three hours in jail last May after Scattoloni briefly used a cellphone to film five police officers who were questioning a suspected drunk drive.  Scattoloni at first filmed the officers from a short distance without incident, but when he and Walker moved closer, they were cuffed and charged with obstructing government business. The charges were later dropped.

The settlement follows high-profile cases around the U.S. in which citizen videos of police conduct gained attention and sometimes led to outrage. The conflicts underscore a developing area of law at a time when police actions are being scrutinized and high-quality cellphone cameras are ubiquitous. The city said it was the couple’s refusal to obey an officer’s order, not the filming, that led to their arrest. Nonetheless, the incident will be used to train Portland officers on the public’s First Amendment right to film police conduct. “Police officers may not like being recorded, but personal recordings are an important check on potential abuses,” said Zachary Heiden of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine. “The police get to carry guns, and the public gets to carry cellphones.”

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Tsarnaev "Lone-Wolf" Portrayal May Give Opportunity To Defense

Prosecutors seeking the death penalty against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev depict him as part of a disturbing global movement, the rise of “lone-wolf” terrorists. They argue that the 21-year-old man showed the tell-tale signs: a fascination with jihadist material on the Internet and a preference to work alone, or in a small group, says the Boston Globe. The government’s portrayal of Tsarnaev opens up an opportunity for the defense, which began its case yesterday, as it seeks to illustrate how Tsarnaev was troubled and easily influenced by others, particularly his older brother. Studies show that these attackers are often emotionally vulnerable individuals who can be converted to a new cause rather quickly, terrorism experts say.

“Terrorists express a political aim, otherwise they aren’t terrorists. But that aim doesn’t mean it’s driving their behavior,” said Max Abrahms, a political science professor at Northeastern University. Liah Greenfeld, a Boston University professor who specializes in nationalism and modern culture, said that she sees a desperate personal crisis in many lone-wolf terrorists, and believes their deadly missions are often meant, often unconsciously, to target themselves. “Very often these lone wolves cannot commit suicide, they commit suicide by cop,” she said. Though Tsarnaev’s defense team has begun to present witnesses, they may save most of their case for the penalty phase, when the jury will decide whether he is sentenced to death or life in prison.

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Two Ex-Federal Agents Charged With Stealing Bitcoins In Silk Road Case

Two former federal agents accused of stealing bitcoins have been charged with wire fraud, money laundering and related offenses, reports NPR. Carl Force, a formerly with the Drug Enforcement Administration, and Shaun Bridges, a former Secret Service agent, were part of a Baltimore task force investigating Silk Rod, the online marketplace often labeled the eBay of the drug trade. Force was given the task of establishing communications with Ross Ulbricht, aka "Dread Pirate Roberts," the San Francisco man linked to Silk Road. Ulbricht was convicted last month of drug and conspiracy charges.

The U.S. Justice Department charged that Force created several online personas "and engaged in complex Bitcoin transactions to steal from the government and the targets of the investigation." Bridges is accused of diverting $800,000 in bitcoins to his personal account. "The complaint alleges that Bridges placed the assets into an account at Mt. Gox, the now-defunct digital currency exchange in Japan," DOJ said. "He then allegedly wired funds into one of his personal investment accounts in the United States mere days before he sought a $2.1 million seizure warrant for Mt. Gox's accounts."

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How Detroit Police Work To Boost Homicide Clearance Rate

Detroit police are in a race with one of the nation's worst homicide rates, and it's hard not to fall behind, NPR reports. In 2012, Detroit barely cleared 1 murder in 10. The city was on the verge of bankruptcy then. They're pushing the rate up now. One way to do that is to mine cold cases. Sgt. Mike Russell has one like that on his desk right now, from 1979. Under federal rules, police get credit for the clearance in the year they solve the murder, not the year the crime was committed.

A lot of departments have boosted their clearance rates this way. The downside is, once the department has solved the easier cold cases, they often see their rate sag again. So another thing they try is to make their homicide detectives experts on certain neighborhoods. Russell's squad specializes in northwestern Detroit. You can see why homicide eats up so many man hours. There are at least 10 officers heading out on one search, and it's not even considered a dangerous one because the suspects are already in custody. The detectives call this a nice-guy entry because, well, they plan to knock.

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AZ Gov Vetoes Bill To Suppress Names Of Officers In Shootings

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has vetoed a bill that would have temporarily kept secret the names of police officers involved in serious or deadly shootings, reports the Arizona Republic. The hotly debated measure came amid heightened scrutiny of police nationwide after deadly-force incidents in Ferguson, Mo., Staten Island, N.Y., and Cleveland. Those incidents involved the deaths of black males at the hands of white police officers.

Supporters of the bill, including police unions, argued that keeping confidential the names of officers would provide a cooling-off period to prevent protests, marches and retaliation against officers. Opponents, including police chiefs, civil-rights groups and attorneys for the Arizona Republic, maintained the legislation was unnecessary and the confidentiality would undermine confidence in police departments. Ducey concluded the bill does not protect officers or their families, and he worried "it could result in unforeseen problems." He wrote he was most swayed by concerns raised by police chiefs, who under current law have the authority to make decisions in the best interests of their departments.

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TCR at a Glance

Prop 47: The Debate Continues

March 23, 2015

Just four months after Californians passed a landmark referendum to reform the criminal code, they’re immersed in a debate over its...